We are back to the perennial spring question – When will the ice go out? At this point I would not be much interested in walking out on the ice. It’s not black but gray. Still we have some time before it will go out.
Our best gauge for ice out was developed by a man named Don Brazell. For many years Don delivered freight and then mail up the Gunflint Trail. He was a very observant guy as he drove up and down the Trail. This is his system as it was passed on to me.
The first sign of the ice going out is the North Brule River when it is clear of ice and running freely. Within a week after that the beaver pond on the Round Lake Road leading to Tuscarora Lodge will go out. After another week, Gunflint Lake will go out.
I went to town on Tuesday and there was still ice on the North Brule River. It is my guess that within the next couple of days, the ice will be gone on the river. That would make the ice out on Gunflint Lake about May 4th or 5th. We will see how accurate this is.
Meanwhile I have a little story to tell you about driving a truck on the ice at this time of year. About 15 or 20 years ago in April, we had a load of firewood to deliver to Charlie Cook who lived on the Canadian side of Gunflint. Shari Baker, who was then a young college student, had split the wood and loaded it into the pickup. She was a little nervous about driving across the lake so Bruce said he would do it.
Everything looked great as the pickup disappeared behind the point of Charlie’s bay but they never came back out. After a long, long time a single snowmobile came putt-putting across the lake. It was soaking wet Bruce on Charlie’s machine. Bruce had driven the truck over some thin ice just off Charlie’s dock and the truck started to sink. The plow on the front of the truck kept it from totally sinking. Then he and Charlie had found some old boards to further hold the truck up.
Of course, the question was what to do now? Eric Thompson came over from Borderland to help. The three of us gathered a come-along, ropes and a set of pulleys and took off for Charlie’s. Justine was not thrilled to be left behind so she went over to the bridge at Cross River with her binoculars to watch.
Shari and I laid out the come-along and pulleys. Bruce and Eric attached everything to the truck and a tree on shore. Before the truck was high enough to be totally out of the water a rope broke. Now it was Mom’s turn to help, she drove up and down Gunflint Lake borrowing chains – two from the ambulance, one at Gunflint, one at Borderland, another one at Heston’s – until they linked from the truck to the tree on the shore. Finally we were able to raise the truck completely out of the water and onto long boards to keep it out of the water.
The next problem was to get the truck home. Every day the ice was just going to get worse. The guys decided to wait until we had one last hard frost which came in a couple of days. They went over at first light and used the boards to lay out a track to drive on. Once Bruce got going, he never stopped until he was on shore at the lodge.
The moral of this story is that even locals who know everything should stay off the ice in April.